Goals from Jules and Gnahoua top off good Town performan
Town: Dean Henderson, Shaun Whalley, Abu Ogogo (c), Carlton Morris, Louis Dodds, Junior Brown, Ebou Adams, Zak Jules, Jon Nolan, Toto Nsiala, Christos Shelis
Subs: Craig MacGillivray, Arthur Gnahoua, Lenell John-Lewis, Bryn Morris, Dan James, Alex Rodman, Chris Gallagher, Ryan Sears, Callum Roberts
Villa: Sam Johnstone, Alan Hutton, James Chester, John Terry, Neil Taylor, Andre Green, Jordan Veretout, Conor Hourihane, Birkir Bjarnasson, Ross McCormack, Scott Hogan
Subs: Matija Sarkic, Micah Richards, Henri Lansbury, Aaron Tshibola, Gabriel Agbonlahor, James Bree, Keinan Davis, Gary Gardner, Jordan Amavi, Chris Samba, Jordan Lyden, Mark Bunn
Referee: Steve Martin
Assistants: Matt Jones & Greg Rollason
Fourth Official: Ben Watkiss
Attendance: 5,549 (2,593 away fans)
Martin Wild reports from Montgomery Waters Meadow
Two late goals from new boys Zak Jules and Arthur Gnahoua gave Shrewsbury Town a morale-boosting victory against Aston Villa this afternoon in front of five and a half thousand fans at Montgomery Waters Meadow. Steve Bruce’s side could have no complaints about the 2-1 scoreline as they failed to muster a single shot on target from open play throughout. Henri Lansbury despatched a last gasp penalty after a Christos Shelis trip on Jordan Lyden but it was far too little and far too late.
There was a decent start to the game with both sides passing the ball around well on the pristine surface. Town survived extremely optimistic claims for a penalty when Alan Hutton took a tumble on the right hand edge of the box, and at the other end, Ebou Adams got into a good position to the right of goal, but pulled his shot which lacked any kind of direction or power.
Approaching the midway stage of the first half Shaun Whalley tried his luck with a dipping volley from 18 yards, but it wasn’t good enough to test Sam Johnstone in the Villa goal. His counterpart, Dean Henderson, had yet to be tested save for a couple of routine catches to demonstrate his command of the area.
There was a typical air of pre-season about this game although some of the challenges were of the meaty variety and largely went unpunished. Not so when Toto Nsiala appeared to win the ball cleanly following a well timed tackle that halted the run of Ross McCormack. The ref didn’t see it that way which gave Conor Hourihane a dead ball kick from 25 yards but he couldn’t keep his effort down.
Just before the half hour Carlton Morris’ low ball in was hacked at by a Villa defender, and the attempted clearance bounced up to give Jon Nolan a sight of goal coming around the back. His contact was a good one and he headed the ball back in the direction from which it had arrived. Although Johnstone was wrong footed, the attempt went wide but it was Town’s best moment of the game to date.
Junior Brown left Andre Green in a heap with a foul that would have undoubtedly brought about a caution had this been a league fixture, but the ref let him off with the proverbial flea in the ear instead. The resultant free kick midway inside Town’s half and in front of the newly sponsored County Group West Stand came to nothing.
Henderson was certainly endearing himself to the home fans - not that he had been called into too much action, more that his handling was impeccable and when called upon he looked very assured.
Just before half time came a really good chance for Shrews. Louis Dodds lacked composure though and contrived to drag his shot from the edge of the box well wide when a minimum requirement was to hit the target. And then big Nsiala got high up the pitch to power in a header but it struck a Villa defender and bounced gently into the arms of Henderson. Town had acquitted themselves well in the opening 45 and left the field to warm applause from those occupying the home seats.
Half Time: Town 0 Villa 0
There were no half-time changes although with 22 substitutes across two elongated benches it wasn’t going to be too long until the fun and games began from the sidelines. Soon enough, there were FOURTEEN players in fluorescent bibs warming up in front of us!
McCormack fizzed one over the bar from another free-kick and Henderson’s impressive –although unnecessary – dive, was his last chance to muddy his kit (if that were even possible on such lush turf). Craig MacGillivray started the substitute pantomime and Deano went off to a rapturous reception despite not having made a single save in 55 minutes.
Shrewsbury were pinning Villa deep and as a consequence were enjoying the lion’s share of the football. We were an hour into the game and there was no apparent gulf in class – although pre-season is hardly the best time to analyse things like that.
Just past the hour came eleven changes all at the same time with five from the home side and one more from the away. Shortly after the changes, Brown whipped over a menacing cross and Johnstone had to be brave to climb high above Lenell John-Lewis and claim the ball cleanly.
Hutton looped a header over MacGillivray’s crossbar but although the game was two-thirds complete, it was hard to recall a single attempt that had been on target from the visitors. That stat soon came close to changing when Gary Gardner’s superb free kick clattered against the substitute goalkeeper’s right hand post and bounced to safety. It was easily the best moment of the match from Villa but going behind would have been harsh for Salop to take, so maybe they’d earned their slice of luck?
Gnahoua shot well wide from 20 yards and some of the momentum built by Town before the changes, had been lost for a short time since making them. Still, with only quarter of an hour left, Paul Hurst’s men were entitled to feel very pleased with their afternoon endeavours. But then, things got even better for Town when they took the lead. Bryn Morris swung over a fine corner and Jules rose highest to plant a downward header into the corner of the net much to the delight of the supporters behind that South Stand goal.
As Shrewsbury continued on the front foot, man mountain John – Lewis battled his way through a couple of defenders to set up a shooting opportunity, but his right foot shot went weakly wide. It hardly mattered because within a minute Town were two to the good – Gnahoua showing his strike partner how it should be done by lashing a shot from the edge of the area past a helpless Johnstone to make it 2-0 with 10 minutes left.
Many of the three thousand travelling supporters decided it would be a good idea to head for the exits as there appeared no way back for their side. It proved to be an inspired decision despite Lansbury netting from the spot – sending MacGillivray the wrong way - with the last kick of the match.
Full Time: Town 2 Villa 1